Reaching those left behind: Persons with disabilities in times of Covid-19

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) is launching a series of awareness-raising videos on COVID-19, in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities remain a commonly “invisible” left behind population group, and this vulnerability and marginalization is much more accentuated in times of emergency and pandemics.

UNESCO recognises that the impact of the COVID-19 globally has resulted in unprecedented challenges affecting countries and all persons globally. While numerous efforts have been made to urgently share information with all people, there is limited and in some cases, no information being produced in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. This contradicts the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that calls on States Parties to take “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk” (Art.11).

In this context, UNESCO has taken active steps to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities to access reliable information and communication on the pandemic are realised. The videos are in English and Sign language, making them accessible to persons with different types of disabilities, as well as in Shona and Ndebele to cater for persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe who communicate in the local languages. The sign languages will also allow the population in other countries to access the information as all.

UNESCO ROSA produced the videos in close partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe, in consultation with key Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) and the Government of Zimbabwe. The initiative benefited from the support of the UN Partnership for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Union-funded Spotlight Initiative.